Introducing the CNE - Main characteristic of the evaluation

The CNE stands for " Comité national d'eLvaluation des eLtablissements publics à caractère scientifique, culturel et professionnel ". It was created by the 26 January 1984 Higher Education Law which has granted universities further administrative, pedagogical, research and financial autonomy.

The 10 July 1989 Law has made the CNE an autonomous administrative entity which reports directly to the President of the Republic and thus is not under the authority of the Higher Education Minister. The CNE is financed by the state and has got its own budget.

The CNE consists of a 25 members board and of a 24 administrative staff led by a general delegate. The members are named by the President of the Republic during a ministers' meeting. The membership lasts 4 years and is not immediately renewable. Among the 25 members, 11 members represent the academic and research community. They are selected from lists of names respectively put forward by the department presidents of the CNU (Conseil national des universités, Universities National Council), the department presidents of the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Research National Council), and of the Institut de France [French Institute]. Three members are selected from lists of names by the CPU (Conférence des Présidents d'université), one by the CDFI (directeurs d'écoles et de formations des ingénieurs), on by the CDIUFM (directeurs d'institut universitaire de formation des maîtres).Three members involved in a foreign organism of teaching and resarch. Four members are issued from the CES (Conseil économique et social, Economic and Social Council), one from the Conseil d'état [State Council], one from the Cour des Comptes [State Audit Office]. The President of the CNE is named from among 25 members. Half of the members are renewed every two years.

The CNE aims at evaluating research, cultural and vocational public institutions, i-e universities, schools and " grands établissements " reporting to the higher education minister. The CNE may also evaluate higher education institutions reporting to other ministries.

The CNE evaluates the institutions in the areas linked to the missions of the higher education public sector, i-e initial and further education, students living conditions, research and the use of its results. The CNE also examines the way an institution is governed, its policy and management. However, the CNE is neither entitled to evaluate individuals, nor to authorize courses, nor to apportion state funds.

The evaluation conducted by the CNE leads to a series of conclusions and recommendations sent to the evaluated institution. The CNE includes a follow-up in the evaluation that consists in a meeting with the managing team of the institution about 18 months after the report has been published. The objective of this meeting is to measure the impact of the evaluation over the functioning of the establishment.

As stipulated in the 21 February 1985 decree the CNE organises its activities by itself. It decides on its programmes and determines the schedule and methodology of its evaluations.

In actual practice the CNE runs several types of activities :
- evaluating higher education institutions. The CNE has already evaluated all the French universities and about 50 schools altogether (more than 180 reports have been published so far). The CNE has undertaken a second round of evaluations which happen to be less descriptive than the first ones. The methodology of these second evaluations reinforce and precise the role of the internal evaluation of the establishment, the analysis of which allows to select some expertise topics.

- evaluating "university sites" taking into account the interactions of a group of institutions over an area (region, metropolitan area...);

- cross-cutting evaluations about specific activities linked to higher education (sport and the students, the use of research results, etc.);

- cross-cutting and comparative evaluations as regards a discipline (geography, information and communication studies, chemistry) or a type of degree course (postgraduate degrees in medical studies, pharmacy courses);

The CNE also focuses on the missions of the universities and examines the general higher education policy issues in its annual report to the President of the Republic.

The main characteristics of the evaluation, as is carried out by the CNE, are as follows:
- the evaluation is based upon both quantitative and qualitative elements. It gives importance to the context, the specific situation, the evolution and the particular objectives of the evaluated institution.

- the evaluation includes an internal and an external phase. The evaluated institution prepares an internal evaluation record with the help of some CNE's guidelines. (Handbook of Standards for Quality Management in French Higher Education Institutions).This record analyses the institution strengths, its weaknesses and its future prospects. The external phase is a peer review, consisting of a site visit and leading to confidential reports. The CNE then bases itself upon both the internal evaluation and the experts' reports to elaborate the evaluation report, which is public.

- the evaluation reports analyse the way the institutions define their project and fulfil their missions. Thus they help to keep the public informed, and first of all the institutions' users and partners, particularly the state and other funding actors. The recommendations they include also make them a strategic tool which can be used by the institutions, and in particular by the presidents and their teams, to implement their policy, to improve the quality of their teaching methods, of their research and of their management.

- the evaluation is based on a dialogue between the CNE and the evaluated institutions. Criteria and indicators are defined and discussed both by the CNE and the CPU (Conférence des présidents d'université, University Presidents' Conference). There's a dialogue-based reflexion over the methodology of the evaluation and the guidelines used for the internal evaluation. The report drafting itself is submitted for comment to the people in charge in the evaluated institution, which president has the last word as his or her reply is published at the end of the evaluation report.

Organising and carrying out the evaluation of an institution

The decision to undertake the evaluation of a higher education institution is made by the CNE members during a plenary meeting and upon its President's suggestion. The evaluation is led by one, two or three members of the CNE. They are nominated by the President and may be assisted by a consultant. One chargé de mission [project manager responsible for an evaluation programme] is then given the charge of the the programme by the general delegate. Member(s), general delegate and chargé(s) de mission are the people in charge for the evaluation programme.

Two steps are necessary for the evaluation of an institution. First, an internal evaluation is led and organised by the institution. That evaluation is helped by the " guidelines for evaluation " and must involve all the institution staff. It can be defined as the way the institution considers itself with the data it produces as a basis. Second, the CNE organises and coordinates an external evaluation based on a peer review. The experts are university professors, higher education administrative or technical senior executives, key economic professionals, be they french or not.

The people in charge of the evaluation meet for the first time the head of the institution affected and define the procedure of the evaluation. The institution can start its internal evaluation, with the help of the CNE's guidelines for evaluation.

As the people in charge of the evaluation pay a first visit to the institution, they introduce and explain the evaluation process to the people involved, i-e the managing team, the teachers' (especially the heads of departments), the administrative staff and students' representatives.

The institution has then 2 or 3 months to collect and gather the elements which are to constitute the internal evaluation record. During that time, the chargé de mission collects all the pieces of information available as regards the establishment, such as statistical data, institution project, contracts, and so on.

Once they have examined that record, the people in charge of the evaluation select some expertise topics and decide on which experts shall be in charge. The experts are then officially named by the CNE president. After being acquainted to the evaluation through a summary document they were given by the chargé de mission, the experts attend a meeting, the objective of which is to prepare their mission on the spot. The people in charge of the evaluation specify the CNE's expectancies and define the question related to each topic with the experts.

The expert review (on site visit) is organised by the chargé de mission and generally lasts 3 days. The experts meet the people in charge in the institution, as well as teachers, researchers, some administrative staff, students, and also external partners.

By one month following the mission, the experts will have sent their reports to the CNE. The reports are confidential. The experts meet a second time so that they can compare their opinions and discuss their analysis, hence they can highlight the main characteristics of the institutio and get a panorama of its strategic developpment axes.

A prior evaluation report is then written by the people in charge for the evaluation programme and is presented in a CNE plenary session.

Once it has been approved by the CNE, the prior report is sent to the president of the evaluated institution. That document does not include any conclusions or recommendations. A consultation visit then takes place and the CNE can collect the remarks from the people in charge. Some of those remarks can be used when it comes to the final writing of the report.

That final report, once approved by the CNE in a plenary session, is sent to the president of the institution, along with the conclusions and recommendations. The president is then to write a reply.

The report is published and includes the institution's president or director's reply. It has a circulation of around 600. About 400 issues are sent to the university community (university presidents, recteurs d'académie [representatives of the national education minister in a region]), to the higher education ministry managing teams, to other ministries, to the national and local press, to the MPs, regional communities and the affected consular organisms. A short 4-page document called " Profil " introduces the institution, the main ideas of its evaluation and the principal recommendations from the CNE. Both documents are available on the CNE Internet servor (

The average duration of an evaluation programme is about 1 year.

How the evaluation of an etablissement is being carried out